Uncharted Series Review – Part 1: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Uncharted series. In fact, I’ve heard only good things about the Uncharted series. So when Uncharted 4 was announced and every gamer simultaneously thrust their wrists into the front of their underwear I just kind of…stared blankly at my computer screen wondering what the big deal was. As you’ve probably gathered I’d never played an Uncharted game before, as during the PS3 age I decided to get a Xbox 360 instead, and reverted back to Playstation after the PS4 was released.

I wasn’t entirely ignorant. I’d seen snippets of game play here and there in just about every gaming video ever and to me, it just looked like your typical cover-based shooter action/adventure title. But with Uncharted 4‘s release, I decided I might as well see for myself. I traded in some games I either didn’t want or was never going to finish, and purchased the Uncharted: Nathan Drake HD Collection and started at the beginning with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

All in all, I was kind of disappointed by Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, though admittedly not as disappointed as I would have been had I actually listened to the hype it’s gotten rather than adamantly ignored it.

Here’s the thing, while it’s got an intriguing story, a great script, impeccable visuals and entertaining characters, it’s essentially the love child of Gears of War and Indiana Jones. It’s a cover-based shooter set in linear levels with very conveniently placed rubble, and you spend 5+ hours running from point A to point B with the sole purpose of advancing the plot. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not anything special either.

I find Nathan very clunky to control, with running around feeling about as natural as a three-legged race with blindfolds, and being a game that is extremely fickle with where you can and can’t go, clunky direction controls are really, really bad.

Oh did I say “fickle?” Sorry I meant “Go anywhere but this straight line on this plane of depth, and die” and I mean that very literally. The game gives you the impression and feeling of these open, sprawling environments, and I was incredibly disheartened when the huge jungle I was thrust into, turned out to be three-dimensional rendered wall paper set up around a single linear path. It would have been so much better if a fall from a survivable height, was survivable, and forced the player to navigate back to where they were. But the game sets you on its desired course and tells you “Go there, from here.” The result being, you’ll survive from a fall of one height in one area, and in another you’ll die from the same height time and time again, all because the game doesn’t want you to go there. Constantly being unaware of how far you’re allowed to fall, and guiding a guy across intricate, three-dimensional puzzles with clunky controls, does not for a good experience make.

Not only that but the I’m not sure if the game actually has a concept of realism or not, as AI activity is incredibly inconsistent. For example enemies could be flanking and actually coordinating attacks and displaying personalities, and five minutes later AI can just rush you without any semblance of strategy at all, probably hoping to headbutt Nathan Drake’s face in. I know I want to sometimes the smarmy little bastard. The game is incredibly inconsistent with its AI, and at one point there was a blatant plot hole where Drake was exploring an underground catacomb that the enemy had no idea even existed, and yet when I went in I was stuck in a firefight with the same enemies I’d been killing during the entire level!

And while Nathan Drake is for the most part, a pretty awesome dude, I do like my characters to have flaws, and Drake is far too perfect for my liking. Yeah he’s got some good lines and yeah he’s super smart, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him. He’s never wrong about his theories, he’s rarely overwhelmed and when he is, he just quips it away like it’s nothing. I feel like there should be something more to Drake otherwise he’s just a cardboard cut-out painted with the colors of the rainbow, which is the equivalent to a 5-year old’s scribble drawing in characterization.

The clincher that made me shout “Oh come the f*&% on!” was when zombies showed up, and that just sealed it for me that the writers at Naughty Dog had no idea what they wanted to do with Drake’s Fortune, so they just threw together a carbon copy of one of the most popular third person shooters developed, combined it with a successful movie franchise and then threw in the staple of the generation to create a crowd-pleasing and shallow shooter with a plot about as mysterious as the question “Where does Hairy MacLary live?”

All in all Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is alright, the game play is solid and I could play it for a straight 5 hours without complaining, but the simple truth is there are better alternatives. The script is good and entertaining but nothing feels like a threat, even when it is. The zombies can kill Nathan in two hits, but because they die within about 2 seconds of continuous machine gun fire they’re not that much of a challenge. I really don’t know why Drake’s Fortune got the reception it did. It’s hardly ground-breaking, what it is, is the gaming equivalent of 1984 by George Orwell. Players are given the illusion of choice and freedom and all, that but the reality is if they don’t do what Big Brother wants them to, they’re as good as dead.

2.5/5 stars

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a 2007 action-adventure platform video game developed by Naughty Dog, and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation 3. It is the first game in the Uncharted series.
Initial release date: November 19, 2007
Series: Uncharted
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genres: Third-person shooter, Action-adventure game, Platform game
Designers: Neil Druckmann, Hirokazu Yasuhara, Mark Cerny
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